Blood-alcohol tests still apply - NPA

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Cape Town metro police breathalise a driver on Eisleben Road. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

There are no changes to the way drunk drivers are to be prosecuted.

This clarification comes after some reports at the weekend which may have been misinterpreted.

The Saturday Argus reported that telltale signs of drunk driving, and not only blood tests, would be enough to land motorists in trouble with the law as the authorities sought new ways to crack down on the problem.

The National Prosecuting Authority held a joint pre-season briefing with the police on Friday, reminding the public that blood tests were not necessary for a conviction.

With roadblocks planned across the province, traffic officials would instead be looking for the telltale signs of inebriation - unsteadiness and an inability to perform simple tasks, such as walking in a straight line.

This was apparently interpreted by some readers as suggesting that blood tests would no longer be used to convict drunk drivers. Some readers apparently may also have thought that a new charge was being introduced, namely “driving under the influence”.

However, the law has always existed.

Drunk drivers can be charged on two potential offences:

Driving ‘over the limit’: Thiis means the driver was tested and found to be over the legal limit for blood alcohol, breath alcohol or both. Those on this list would all be blood-tested. The legal limit is 0.02 percent, or 0.05g, per 100ml of blood.

Driving ‘under the influence’: This means the driver was convicted, based on records showing him or her to be driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs - for example, eyewitness testimony or photographic evidence.

The NPA has since reiterated, to clarify: “Blood samples will still be taken because when there is not enough evidence to charge on the main count, namely driving under the influence, the State will proceed on the alternative count, namely driving with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.

“By this the NPA would like to emphasise the seriousness of driving under the influence of alcohol, and we therefore urged officials to collect all relevant evidence to enable the prosecution to proceed on the main count of driving under the influence in appropriate matters.”

Prosecutor Christhenus van der Vijver stressed that the move did not mean blood-alcohol tests would be abolished. Rather, it meant that the State did not have to rely on blood tests for convictions - instead applying the alternative charge of ‘driving under the influence’.

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